Fall in Brooklyn and it smells like…chicken fried rice. What is that smell? Two pups asleep on the couch and much to cover. I guess I’ll start with the ex-soldier, ex-actor with no sense of taste or smell who teaches a cooking class.
That would be up in Ithaca. AJ and I spent two weeks up there, staffing a raw-food retreat -- that is, a retreat where people revitalize and reinvigorate (same thing probably) by eating organic raw foods. This spare, healthy diet cleans out the body like drano cleans out pipes, like a tune-up sets your car right for another 10 thousand miles. All the chemicals, colorings and preservatives that we eat all year long are flushed right out. And the feeling after the flushing – magic.
Here’s a link to the center: Bodymind Retreats
AJ and I arrived there a couple days before retreat started to help set up. I got to work chainsawing trees while AJ planted wheatgrass.
“One nice thing about being deaf,” I said to her during a break, “Never have to worry about ear protection.” Which was true, I was killing trees like the anti-lorax, no need for ear plugs.
She had mud up to her elbows. The wheatgrass shed smelled like the entirety of greenness in the world distilled into one room.
“Do we really have to eat this grass?” AJ asked.
“You don’t eat it, you drink it. And yes.”
“And what is it supposed to do?”
“Make you feel better.”
“Coffee makes me feel better.”
“That’s not kosher here. Sorry.”
But there were many things to make up for AJ's java deprivation: stunning ponds, beautiful saunas, a pool full of lotus flowers, good salads, great company, a bed in a tent in an evening rainstorm, classes on health, classes on sanity, and of course, classes on recipes.
Taught, as I said, by the guy with no taste. But taste is not so important in raw food. Your body starts to hum with clean energy. You need less sleep, fewer calories.
Ithaca is an old haunt of mine, I lived there for four years back in the day, and none of the people I knew then had seen Josh version 2.0, aka with implant. I met up with Jessica, an old friend, at the Farmer’s Market, she noticed the difference in my hearing immediately.
“You’re actually responding to what I say, not what you think I said,” she commented.
“It’s that big a difference?”
“Really? It was that bad before?”
“It was. I never could tell if you heard me.”
I hadn’t known that. I had thought I did ok in one-on-one conversations with hearing aids. It was sort of disconcerting to hear that I hadn't -- I felt like I had to defend version 1.0.
“Jess, maybe I did hear you,” I said. “How do you know I wasn’t just ignoring you?”
“That’s just a defense. You’d ignore people and pretend not to care what they said because it was too hard to follow them. That was obvious. You never fooled anyone.”
I thought about that. There was truth in that. Cold, sharp truth.
“I think I liked it better when I couldn’t hear you,” I said.
But no matter, memory can be whatever you ask it to be. And oh the beauty of the country in late summer! That first crisp taste of fall! That early fall air is like a friend who’s ecstatic for you; all day long it says, “Isn’t this wonderful? Isn’t this amazing? You’re such a righteous dude.”
The two weeks of the retreat went by quickly.
“I feel great,” I said to AJ as we rode the bus back to the city, “we need to start incorporating some of these principles to our diet.”
“Definitely,” she agreed and that night, I got a salad with my burger instead of fries. Not true actually, I did get fries, but I did eat some of AJ's salad.
I would have loved to have stayed up there in the woods, eating healthy and cutting down trees, but work was piling up and the doggies were crapping the bed in anticipation of our return. I’ve plowed through another draft of my book in the week and a half since returning to Brooklyn; it’s coming along. I have to say, of all the memoirs about deaf Peace Corps volunteers, it’s got to be top ten.
Now, it may seem at times that lady luck has made you her slave, that Mr. Fate is laughing uproariously as he makes you jump through hoops like a bean on a hot plate. A toast to them then. A fast dance is better than no dance. The song ends soon enough.
Enjoy the fall.